Martin Vousden Starts up the year

Thought for the Day
Silence is sometimes the best answer

If you’re feeling bold, try this exercise
Before the golf season on either side of the Atlantic gets into full-steam-ahead mode and you have a chance to study a bit of form, jot down on a piece of paper who you think will win the four majors of 2017. After the US PGA see how accurate your predictions were – not just whether or not you picked a winner (which is very unlikely) but where in the field your nomination came. If all four of your picks make the cut you will have done well, if any of them record a top-10 finish you deserve a pat on the back and if you do manage to plump for a winner, champagne should be ordered.

golf-major-championship-trophies

Now try and do the same with the women’s majors – and congratulations if you even know what they are. If you’re feeling really cocksure now try and predict not only the outcome of the Presidents, Solheim and Walker Cups, but the final points score, and the highest point scorer on either side. Finally, if you’re really feeling lucky, punk, try to forecast the winner, each week, of the biggest tournament that week, whether it be in America, the Middle East, Mexico, India, South Africa, China or Europe.

I issue this challenge because every year members of the Association of Golf Writers do exactly this. We receive a list of all the tournaments I mention above and at the end of January record our list of potential winners and scores right through to the Race to Dubai at the end of November. We pay £10 to enter, and every euro, dollar or pound won is converted to points so that the person sitting atop the heap at season’s end, along with the second and third placed punters, receives a share of the pot. The unfortunate soul who comes last has their entry fee refunded and honesty compels me to admit that in 2015 this was me.

I have few ambitions to win the whole kit and caboodle, especially this year when I have made a modest start, to say the least, because my pick for the Dubai Desert Classic, Big Girls’ Blouse Lee Westwood, limped home in joint 23rd. But at least he was a runner – it’s not unusual for me to opt for a golfer who either isn’t in the field, withdraws through injury or misses the cut. But I have a particular genius for selecting someone who wins either the week before, or the week after, the tournament for which he or she is my choice.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not looking for sympathy and the reason I mention it is simply to illustrate how difficult it is to pick a winner in golf. On any given week 156 of the best in the world will tee it up and any one of them could win, although more likely, you will have a potential victor’s list of 30-40 players. Yet even if you follow form we still get the winners, and it happens more often than you might think, who have done nothing but miss cuts and play like a donkey for weeks on end, who suddenly find something clicks and their long game or putting unexpectedly gets red hot, converting them from no-hoper to smiling winner.

Okay, it’s probably a fair bet to assume that Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson will taste victory at some time in 2017 but crystal-ball gazing to determine in which week they will lift a trophy is nigh on impossible. And if you don’t believe me, try it yourself.

There’s always someone worse off
No matter what sort of round you have next time out, I very much doubt that it will be worse than that recently experienced by Greg Eason, a talented Englishman currently plying his trade on the Web.com tour in America. You may think Eason a bit of a pessimist because he set out on the first round of the Bahamas Great Abaco Classic, over an admittedly tough course in windy conditions, with 36 golf balls. After two rounds he had four left. Not surprisingly he set a few records. His 15 on the par five 18th hole is the single biggest score on any hole by a professional so it’s not surprising that he shot 90. More pleasing, however is that on day two he bounced back with a 68, setting a another record, this time of the biggest margin between two rounds – 22 strokes.

Quote of the week
A ball will always come to rest halfway down a hill, unless there is sand or water at the bottom
Henry Beard

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